April. Here in the States that means Autism Awareness Month. It is hoped, by those who organize such things, that a month like this will, well, grow awareness and concern about autism. Just in case you need a reminder I would like to state for the record:
I am aware of autism.
Our youngest son, Andrew, is on the spectrum. He was diagnosed in 2007 after many months (years?) of evaluation, observation, and assessment by those who know a lot about such things. He was four years old. In the nearly five years since diagnosis I have had a few things to say about raising an on-the-spectrum child. Writing about him has helped me to process the journey and celebrate the being that he is. There have been moments of sorrow and moments of joy along the way. Indeed, there is angst; there is anxiety. Also, there are questions; lots of questions. And, overall, there is growth and learning. One thing that I am most certain I have learned along the way:
Autism is awareness.
One of the incredible things about the incredible boy I am raising is his heightened state of awareness of EVERYTHING that is happening around him. The experts say that, for those of us with neuro-typicality, our brains have an ability to filter noises and prioritize what we should focus upon as we listen, or interact, or engage with the world. Not so for the specially made brain with autism; rather, sounds and stimulation all come through at the same level of volume, or speed, or overwhelm. It is much more difficult for a child with autism to distinguish noises and prioritize sounds to find focus.
Or, as Andrew says it: “I have very sensitive ears”.
And so he does, along with a very sensitive soul and an insatiable zest for life. Living with
a this child on the spectrum is a daily lesson on noticing everything, the way he does. For Andrew, every, every moment in his day is a new adventure. Put him on a swing and he shouts at the top of his lungs with unmitigated joy. Offer him a new book to read (preferably about Power Rangers) and his whoops of delight are infectious. He tells jokes. He sings songs. He chatters incessantly. He hears everything. He is readily distracted by side sightings and wandering thoughts. When I forget to remember who he is (and sometimes I do) it can be frustrating, especially when attempting to make a departure from the house to reach school on time. But when I remember to be still and watch him, I am constantly fascinated by what fascinates him. His curiosity about the world is unending–he asks questions about how things work, why things happen the way they do, and what might happen next. He (like many children with autism) interprets things literally and it takes large effort on his part to open his mind to the idea that some things we say are not what they sound like. Idioms are idiocy for a boy like this–after all, raindrops are made of water, NOT cats and dogs.
I have long said that Andrew walks at his own pace. Occasionally, that is at turbo speed (well. as fast as eight-and-a-half-year-old legs can run), but most often that is the sure and steady pace of the tortoise. He pushes along in his own time, always pressing forward in steady progress, but with a cadence that allows for him to pause, notice, investigate, and breathe it all in. I am honored to be his companion for the journey.
My son has autism.
It makes me aware.
Please visit Cafe Press to order your Autism Awareness gear!
If I am part of your feed, it may shock you greatly to see this pop up in the reader. I’m not sure I’m sure about what I’m doing. Or how long I’ll be doing it. Again. The one thing I do know is that my fingers are itchy to write, so that is what I shall do. Right here.
Quickly, here’s the sum up. We’ve moved. Again. This time a full circle return to the very place we left six years ago. And by very place I mean VERY PLACE. We are living in Phoenix, Arizona in the SAME HOUSE we lived in before. That’s a bit of a story in itself, and it’s one that might be told here soon enough, but for now that’s what you need to know. I am teaching, the kids are schooling, and my man has returned to the world of the courts.
We are living in Arizona.
We are home.
That, perhaps, is the very thing I wanted to write about: home. If you’ve read me much, you’ll remember that I’ve oft expressed the way my writing takes me where it wants to go, far and away more often than my own thoughts dictate the course of the essay. I am used to it. The only thing I know to do when my fingers itch is to get my fingers to a keyboard and write. Here I am.
This is what I’ve been thinking about.
In recent years we, as a family, have had a few of those. In a few places. Houses of loveliness and practicality, one which we still own in addition to this one where we live. In six years there have been six houses–or dwelling places–on two continents, in two countries, two states, and five cities. Each with their own stories and adventures attached. And, here’s the interesting bit, we’ve been home every time, in every house. Yet, I proclaimed at the start of this piece that we are home here. And while I am sure there are many who’ve waxed poetic in a variety of ways on what makes a house a home, I think I’d like to add my thoughts.
Because I get it.
Home is not a place. Home is a heart state. Meaning, when you invest yourself in the locale, the culture, the neighbors, and the whole experience of the place you live you find yourself at home. For me this is a most defined effort to create and sustain a people community. I like people. I need them. So, whether I am living near my dearest friends, finding new friends in a new city, reuniting with people from my past, or even connecting with those friends I’ve not yet met in the flesh, I know that where my people are, that is where I am home.
Arizona, Missouri, The Netherlands; it’s all the same. Home is what I carry with me.
The house location just doesn’t matter.
I love smells. Good smelling smells, of course, but smells all the same
I have loads of early memories wrapped up in my nose:
And so many cherished memories of my adult life, filed away there as well:
I am helpless when it comes to passing by stores like Lush or Bath and Body Works. Magnetically, I am drawn in and toward the soaps and the lotions and the bottles and the sprays. It is simply olfactory heaven in retail form for me. Strangely, perfume shops and counters don’t have the same effect. But those others? I have to be dragged away. And trust me, I have been.
Tonight, as I write this, I am freshly stepped out from a shower full of pomegranate soap and peppermint shampoo. Now, slathered in cinnamon & sandalwood lotion, I’ve washed my face in stone crop gel and moisturized with rosehips. Botanical silk deodorant is applied where it belongs and a sprinkle of a spicy exotic patchouli oil from Dubai is evaporating behind my ears.
Go ahead, smell me.
It’s all good.
It’s the first day of November.
Around here that means two things. The first, once written, may cause you to shake your head in disbelief, but trust me when I say to you, this is how it’s going to be. I’m going to be here all month. All month, my friends and readers. Ill say it again because it just feels that good.
I’m going to be here all month.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. The month that traditionally the gauntlet is thrown for lazy and vigilant bloggers alike to put a little something up on their pages Every. Dang. Day. You can call it NaBloPoMo and as point of fact you should, as tha is the name of the fun. National Blog Posting Month began as a November operation and though it has expanded some to accomodate those crazies bloggers who want to try it all the time, November remains the month of tradition. And so it shall be here. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.
SPEAKING OF TRADITION
Here’s thing two.
November is the month wherein this family attempts to look at the big and little things to be thankful for. And not just on that wonderful day of gluttony but in all the days preceeding it. And, because we have a kindergartener in the house we like to do that with a little visual fun as we exercise our thankful minds.
The way it plays out is like this.
There’s a turkey, see, and he’s got no feathers on his backside. His picture hangs on the wall next to an (as of this moment) empty paper. Next to that is a bag full of feathers (this year we’re using paper feathers, but if you were really motivated you could grab a bag of craft feathers at your local craft store). The action goes something like this:
1. Consider carefully the things [read as: nouns] for which you feel thankful.
2. Write something down on the sheet (can’t stay empty for long).
3. Add a feather to Turkey’s derriere.
4. Feel awful darn good about life because you’ve stopped to notice its goodness.
5. Do it all again tomorrow.
By Thanksgiving Day, Turkey ought to be looking proud as a peacock with all his bling in the back. And everyone ought to be feeling ultimately grateful for what we’ve got.
Because in the end, that’s a lot.